Litter heroes Erne plaudits for pre-G8 lakeside spruce-up
The G8 leaders couldn't fail to be impressed with Enniskillen – beautiful vistas, waterways everywhere teeming with ducks and swans and reedbeds lining the housing estates.
But there's one major drawback about living in an island town, and that's the litter that builds up along the shoreline, swept to their resting places by the Lough Erne currents.
Last week a small army of volunteers from the RSPB and Mencap rolled up their sleeves and got to work on the littered shoreline beside the Cornagrade housing estate, sprucing up the town ahead of the G8 conference.
Their clean-up was part of our Big Spring Clean campaign, a joint drive with Tidy Northern Ireland and DoE Rethink Waste to galvanise 50,000 people to clean up their local area this spring.
Jackie Sweeney, Mencap community support officer, said: "The Mencap young ambassadors were delighted to hear that RSPB wanted to join us at our event as the more hands on board, the bigger effect we could have.
"We got a beautiful day for our Big Spring Clean event and gathered plenty of litter along the way.
"We enjoyed our day out in the spring weather and felt very proud when many local people walking past complimented us on the hard work we were putting in to clean up a local area along the waterside. Mencap will definitely be looking to take part in the Big Spring Clean Campaign again next year."
The volunteers gathered a small mountain of plastic bottles, alcohol tins, bottles and crisp packets and were struck by the fact that much of the waste was recyclable. They also found a lifesaving ring at the water's edge that had become buried under rubble and grass.
RSPB Fermanagh area reserves manager Brad Robson said the site is close to a built-up part of Enniskillen and also a slow-moving stretch of the river where litter accumulates on the shore.
"We were thrilled to have been able to take part in this year's Big Spring Clean with Mencap in Enniskillen. Fermanagh is such a special place for nature and wildlife so we were more than happy to get out with our litter-pickers and make a difference to this beautiful place," he said.
"The Big Spring Clean can make a real difference to communities and nature, making Northern Ireland an even better and more beautiful place to live. Helping people value the beauty of their surroundings is something we feel very strongly about, so we are pleased to have been able to take part in it again this year.
"We found a very big woolly jumper and dragging it out of the water was a pain. It weighted a tonne because it had soaked up half of Lough Erne.
"We also found lots of sweet wrapper and cigarette butts and even bits of discarded fruit near the road. It seemed like someone had pulled up and thrown it out of their car.
"We've separated out the recyclables from the non-recyclables.
"It can take hundreds of years for these things to break down – unless the litter collectors come along and lift it, it's not going anywhere. This is more serious than people think when they just chuck something away."
Meanwhile, another group of Mencap young ambassadors organised a clean-up of Cavehill Country Park, persuading more than 30 children, young people and volunteers from Carrickfergus Junior Gateway to take part.
Mencap young ambassador Peter Neill said: "It was a fantastic day – everyone got involved and had great fun. We hope to come back again next year!'
The group found lots of plastic bags, bottles, food wrappers, remains of a firework and even dog poo left in plastic bags.
Joining in the Big Spring Clean is easy. All you need to do is register an event or join an existing event online at www.bigspringcleanni.org. Don't forget to tell us how successful your event was. Your local council will supply additional kit and will collect the rubbish. For more information, check out the website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9073 6920.